We are continuing in siman 6, discussing the halachos of kol. The Gemara in Megillah, in discussing kriyas hatorah, says that trei koli lo mishta’mai, that two people reading something simultaneously is problematic, because the listeners cannot hear either voice properly. The gemara continues and says that Megillas Esther is an exception, because since the Megillah is dear to Klal Yisroel (only read once a year; the story is exciting), a person is able to focus and hear one of the readers properly.
As an aside, we learned before that when a person receives an aliyah, they are supposed to read along with the baal koreh. In one place, the Shulchan Aruch writes that if a person does not read along, there is concern for bracha levatalah. The halacha is that the oleh is supposed to be reading, and the baal koreh is only there to help the oleh along. If so, the right to say the bracha is based on the fact that the oleh is reading along. There is another place in the Shulchan Aruch which indicates that bedieved, the oleh is yotzei, and that is the halacha we follow.
Either way, regarding the halacha of trei koli lo mishta’mai, if the oleh reads along too loudly, the rest of the tzibbur hears two voices, and they are not yotzei from either voice. Thus, when an oleh reads along, they must read along quietly; audible enough that they can hear themselves, but not audible enough for others to hear them.
Getting back to zemiros, there is an argument to say that we should apply the rule of trei koli lo mishta’mai any time people are singing together. This rule theoretically could be applied both to where multiple women are singing together and men can hear them, and to where men and women are singing together.
The Gemara in Sotah discourages men and women singing together, saying that it causes the yetzer hara to be involved amongst them, so we will leave this scenario for now. We will discuss a situation of multiple women singing together where it is possible for men to hear them.
The idea of multiple women singing together is mentioned by the Seridei Aish, Rav Yaakov Yechiel Weinberg, who was one of the gedolei talmidei Slabodka. He was presented with this question from youth groups in France and Germany before World War 2. Many Jews had become reform, and there was an effort to bring them back. In doing so, they developed after-school programs and the like, similar to programs used in America. The organizers felt that enforcing that the women should not sing would be very difficult, and they asked the Seridei Aish if there was any leniency to allow for the girls to sing with the boys. In France, the name of the youth group was Yeshurun, and in Germany, it was named Ezra.
The Seridei Aish mentions the possibility of it being permitted due to this concept of trei koli lo mishta’mai. He writes that the source of this leniency was mentioned by Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch and Rav Ezriel Hildeshimmer. He personally is a little hesitant to rely on this sevara. He writes that trei koli lo mishta’mai applies when a person wishes to hear the words. The pleasantness of a woman’s voice is not based on discerning the words, but on the pleasantness of the sound. Nevertheless, he concluded that due to the circumstances of kiruv they could rely upon the heter. However, we see that the teshuva of the Seridei Aish is not a general heter.
A second sevara to permit a group of women singing where men can hear them is to use the concept of trei koli lo mishta’mai in a different way. When singing in a group, since one cannot recognize which woman is singing, one is not hearing the voice of a specific woman, so one is not attracted to a specific woman. This ties into a different question, if there is an issur of kol b’isha ervah when one cannot see the woman who is singing, such as on the radio. A further question would be if we also require that the person is unfamiliar with the woman singing. We will clarify these questions further in the upcoming shiurim, be’ezras Hashem.
The concept of trei koli lo mishta’mai is sugggested to allow for a group of women to sing together when men will hear them, based on the idea that one cannot hear any specific voice due to the nature of the group. However, this heter is not clear, and was only given in a situation of kiruv. We will discuss other possible leniencies, be’ezras HaShem.